This archived article was written by: Bronson Harker
The last few weekends have had their ups and downs for the College of Eastern Utah Golden Eagles.
They started their road campaign before spring classes started with an 87 – 83 overtime loss to nationally-ranked Salt Lake Community College and then bounced back with a relatively comfortable 82 – 72 win over the Bruins the next night.
Canadian sniper Tyler Kepkay led the Eagles in scoring on both nights with 36 and 32 points, respectively, while Steve Hassell grabbed eight and five rebounds.
The loss was a game that should have went to the Eagles in regulation but Kepkay was forced into making a tough jumper off the glass to send the game to overtime where SLCC ultimately took the match. CEU shot poorly from the foul line missing 16-free throws. Coach Bryan Zollinger felt that “missing those free throws was really the difference in the game.” The following night it was all CEU from the start. Forcing the Bruins into 20 turnovers is just one-stat line that showed a greater defensive effort which ultimately led to getting the win.
The next weekend CEU was in Ephraim and lost two, due to a sub-par effort from the Eagles.
On Friday night the game went down to the wire. “We were unfortunate to have a foul called against us in the last two seconds of the game,” but Coach Z continued to say “the outcome was probably determined earlier in the game.” Snow played well shooting 60 percent from the field. “Obviously we hadn’t done a good enough job throughout the game of playing defense and lowering their field-goal percentage down to an acceptable level.”
After this 79-77 loss on Friday night, the Eagles remained the prey as the Snow Badgers humiliated CEU with a old fashioned 93-73 demoralization Saturday. “We played poorly,” Coach Z said still obviously wondering how his team competed so poorly, “and they played probably one of their best games of the year, according to their coaches.”
All in all, CEU struggled but only let Mr. Hyde’s ugly face out for one half. Zollinger emphasized that Snow wanted the victory more than his Eagles. After looking foolish against Snow College, it became apparent that in the Scenic West Athletic Conference if you do not come prepared to go to battle, the competition will run right over you. “We have to be mentally prepared to perform as well as we can every night.” With the talented players Coach Z recruited, it is no wonder he feels that his Eagles are capable of winning on every night.
So after a long bus ride to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the Eagles set out to prove they belong among the elite teams of the SWAC, and they did just that. Leading scorer in the nation, Kepkay paced the Golden Eagles to a 77 – 75 victory the first night followed by a 94 – 88 victory the following night.
“We played with a lot of heart against North Idaho College. Our effort was much better than against Snow,” said the Eagles’ big man Felix Caspari, “Our defense was much better.”
Felix and Anthony Oliver led the Eagles with eight rebounds a piece during the Friday night win. Caspari and Steve Hassell then combined for 21 rebounds in the second victory. After a rough weekend against Snow, Coach Z was “proud of the way the guys bounced back. It took a lot of courage and a lot of heart for the guys to go in there and pull out two wins after playing so poorly the week before.”
The wins have CEU sitting in third place behind number 16 in the nation, Salt Lake Community College, who the Eagles are 1 – 1 with, and number 8 in the nation, College of Southern Idaho, who the Eagles will take on at home this weekend in Price at 7:30 both nights in the BDAC.
In preparation for the game you can bet that the Eagles will be working hard in the gym as well as the classroom discussing what the team must do to play their game and beat a team that is regarded by many as a NJCAA powerhouse. Coach Z has a plan and knows that “they are a very good pressure defense team. A lot of their scoring and momentum they get going in games is due to their pressure defense.” However it would be foolish of anyone to count out the Eagles. “The key thing for our team is that there is so many guys on our team that play their roll so well.” Whether it is Brandon Prescott coming off the bench with some energy or Jeremy Lathan hitting 46 percent of his three-point shots, the Eagles have a group of individuals committed to playing a team game and have worked their way into a very lucrative position.
With two wins, the Eagles could move into first place in the conference.